Thursday, January 22, 2009

What kind of pastors do we need?

As we may be approaching another crossroads in the history of the WELS I found the following article in the most recent FIC very interesting.

What does determine success? It would seem to me that we need pastors who proclaim the Word and uphold the sacraments.

For your contemplation and thoughts.... <><
How do you define success?
President Mark Schroeder

By most standards, his ministry was not much of a success.

Becoming a pastor or a missionary was never in his plans. In fact, it was the farthest thing from his mind. Preparing himself for a high-powered secular career, he attended a prestigious university. But sometime later, in spite of his reluctance, his mind was changed. God called him into the ministry.

From almost the beginning he was embroiled in public controversies and disagreements with his co-workers and fellow believers. He never stayed long in any one congregation. No matter where he went, there were those who had no use for him and who did all they could to make his life and work miserable. Often he would leave for his next congregation quickly, painfully aware that not everyone appreciated his efforts.

He never viewed himself as a particularly gifted preacher; he often stated that he was not up to the task either in terms of his speaking skills or his ability to craft well-reasoned and logical arguments. He looked at his own personal failures and remarked to himself and others that he was not worthy to be doing this work. He struggled continually with some kind of ailment, either mental or physical or spiritual, that made his life and work difficult (although he didn’t mention what it was). In one congregation he served, some of the members reinforced his views of himself, making it clear that they much preferred the pastor who followed him.

Throughout his ministry disagreements with co-workers would continue. They would argue and disagree about the strategy and direction that the ministry should take. Sometimes the disagreements were harsh and personal. Some of his closest friends and co-workers actually abandoned him when he needed them most.

One congregation seemed to fall apart shortly after he left, with members becoming tolerant of open immoral behavior, quarreling with each other, and easily adopting teachings and doctrines that were not true.

In the end, he died alone, and the world did not much notice.

His was not a very successful ministry -- unless you measure “success” in ministry by other standards. The pastor and missionary whose career had little going for it on the surface was, in fact , the greatest missionary that this world has seen. This pastor, judged to be a failure by any human standards, was the Apostle Paul.

Paul would agree that his personal abilities and accomplishments were few and far between. But he did not – nor should we -- measure the success of his ministry in those terms. This was the man who recognized that the words he preached were not his words; they were the words of God himself. He recognized that the power of his message was not in himself, but in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had no desire for his ministry to be measured in terms of human glory or accomplishment ; his was a ministry of the cross, proclaiming that God’s way of saving people through the cross, while foolish to the world, was nothing less than the wisdom and power and love of God. Paul’s purpose was not to meet the “felt needs” of people, but to lead them to see their real need: the need for forgiveness and redemption from a Savior who bled and died on the cross. His mission was not to make the church grow in terms of numbers; his mission was to pummel hardened sinners with God’s law in all its condemning force, and to follow with the precious news of forgiveness bought and paid for with the blood of the Son of God. He knew that his role was to plant the seed with the Word of God and that others would water the seed the same Word. But his confidence rested in knowing that it was God and God alone who would make it grow.

What kind of pastor do you want to serve as the shepherd of your congregation? A powerful and dynamic speaker who draws people by the sheer force of his personality? Someone with fantastic organizational skills? Someone who is up on all the latest techniques for connecting with people? Someone who seems to be “successful?” Or would you prefer someone like the Apostle Paul: always preaching Christ, always pointing to the cross, always demonstrating a love for souls by faithful proclamation of law and gospel?

Success, I suppose, all depends on how you define it.


Anonymous said...

I like President Schroeder and hope he can, with God's help and the support of the members, root out the liberals who've infested our synod.

Anonymous said...

Wow - what a relief this article is, and thanks for posting it. I haven't read the Feb. issue of FIC.

I'm sure Prez. S. will rattle a few cages with this article.

I am wondering who will be placed on the ad hoc. I'm sure there will be a lot of political manuevering by the C&Cers.

Anonymous said...

You know, I read that and came away with a totally different perspective of Pastor Schroeder than the two commentors before me...sounds to me like he is VERY level headed and has a true heart for Jesus. I'd like to meet him.


Anonymous said...


You might want to read it again. This is a direct attack on you and your rock-and-roll buddies who trust in "dynamic preachers" and the "latest techniques" to provide numerical growth, which you consider "success".

To which I say, it's about time that somebody in the WELS directly attacked heresy!

Anonymous said...

A good start would be actual discipline of pastors who copy unLutheran sermons and pass them off as their own. A few years ago a man was removed from the ministry for such dishonesty. Now it gets a man a job at headquarters.


Tim Niedfeldt said...

I think you all will be sorely disappointed in the end. Ultimately there might be some cautions that come out. Perhaps St. Andrews will get told that calling the alternative coffee service a service is going too far in Lutherland. As a bible study evangelism tool it may be a fine idea to expose people to the Word, but implying it fits in the bounds of divine worship is stretching the boundaries a bit much. So how will you feel when all that comes of that contemmporary idea is a caution for "truth in advertising"

The red flag has been thrown, however when the COP looks at the video tape for these churches and makes the call I think there will be some angry fans. They will see that all the churches are basically following the common service liturgy. They will see that despite the use of bands that the congregations are not rocking out. The congregants sit there pretty much as in a liturgical service. They'll see some good music and some weaker music just like using the hymnal. They'll see some good sermons and some weak ones just like in liturgical churches. They'll see a good deal of innovation some good and some not so good.

In the end though, the committee will come out with a list of warnings, admonishments, and cautions. You will have been screaming "Heresy!!" and what you will hear Synod say is not heresy but perhaps they could "tone it down a bit"

When that happens you will all have plenty to talk about in how the synod let you down and how it has people conspiring everywhere to support heresy etc..

Just be sure to know that any of these churches will be happy if not even proud to defend themselves to any kind of committee review. I will personally make sure we put the good coffee out for them.


PS: For those so concerned about sermon stealing amongst C&C churches, I think you are a rather naive lot to not think there are plenty others from our liturgical friends as well that visit on a Saturday after a tough week. A little tweek here .. a little tweek there..chop out the altar calls and sinner's prayer etc... I don't condone it at all but it still happens. Strangely I know several of the worst violators and none of them are at contemporary churches. Be careful what you ask for in church just might get it.

Anonymous said...

Don't be so sure Tim. If the COP simply wanted to express caution about some of the things going on, they could have done it easily by themselves (they've done just that in the past). The fact that they are forming an ad hoc committee demonstrates that this is about far more than expressing caution. The days are numbered for you and your ilk. I can't say that I'll be sorry to see you go.

Anonymous said...

"The days are numbered for you and your ilk. I can't say that I'll be sorry to see you go."

Ah, the good ol' days of the WELS are back.

Anonymous said...

Tim is right on the money with his forecast. In spite of the fact that members of the Ad Hoc committee will be selected by Pres. Schroeder and those members will lean heavily towards the CW format for worship the committee will not find scriptural reasons to condemn other worship styles. They will only be able to condemn new and different worship styles based on individual opinion.

Anonymous said...

Have any of you been reading Freddy's posts? He has been providing the scriptural reasons you are looking for and no one is rebutting.

Anonymous said...

Making a charge stick against the C&Cers will prove next to impossible when it comes to heresy. C&Cers can bob and weave, rationalize, and mislead with the best since facts and reasoning must be checked at the door. The insidious harm comes in shifting the focus from the efficacy of the Word to the efficacy of marketing and buildings while draining WELS’ coffers. They threaten to render the synod anemic and unable to continue

Freddy Finkelstein said...

For what it is worth, I'll agree: there is little to celebrate, other than the fact that Synod has finally and officially opened the matter to discussion. But to say they won't find “scriptural reasons to condemn” the importation of sectarian worship practices is to miss the point. The COP is correct. The issues involved are extremely complex, and the concerns regarding so-called “non-traditional” worship do not boil down to a matter of opinion. This is the tired line that finally failed – the COP admitted that the “underpinnings of this 'non-traditional' type of worship cannot be ignored.” The “underpinnings” are not a matter of opinion, but a matter of grave concern. Moreover, these concerns are not satiated by a congregation's casual explanation that they “follow a lose liturgical framework based on the Western Rite, and don't really rock-out” in the Divine Service.

The point is, not only the Scriptures, but the Lutheran Confessions will play a direct and decisive role in deciding this matter. At its foundation the very nature of Confessionalism and the Confessional Principle is at stake, as is a distinction between merely rhetorical unity and true (visible) Unity in doctrine and practice, along with the breadth of this unity with respect to our catholicity. The efficacy of the Means of Grace is at stake, particularly with regard to the troubling fixation and reliance on statistical measures and human methods that assault the Means and very much seem to overshadow them. Fellowship is at stake, not only regarding open association with groups like Willow Creek, but the unmistakable overtures of Fellowship that result from adopting the worship forms of heterodox pop-church Evangelicals. The disruption of christocentric focus in liturgical worship is at issue, especially considering the anthropocentric nature of these sectarian innovations -- which also introduces consideration of the falsehoods that sectarian worship forms inevitably teach to those who practice them. And so, lex orandi, lex credendi also enters the picture, not only from the standpoint of orthodox practice but also that of Fellowship with the heterodox.

But who knows, Tim may well be right. The Synod in Convention recently resolved to merely “recommend” that Lutheran congregations retain the term “Lutheran” in their name – a recommendation roundly ignored by those the resolution was intended to address – begging the question, “How can a congregation which subscribes to the Lutheran Confessions be Lutheran in everything but name?” Subscription to the Confessions, along with many other things, is a declaration of identity! We must all be diligent to ensure that the next time the Synod in Convention has the opportunity to act, we are not forced to subsequently ask the question, “How can a congregation which subscribes to the Lutheran Confessions be Lutheran in everything but name and practice?” For all the work that has resulted in the COP's official recognition of this issue, the real work lies ahead.

Freddy Finkelstein

Freddy Finkelstein said...

And I forgot, in my previous post, at least three other issues related the mess created by CG Church Changers and so-called “non-traditional” worship: (1) the tension created by a call to Divine Worship, that can only be directed to believers, while at the same time consulting unbelievers and accommodating their demands with respect to the ordering of the Divine Service (i.e., church practice) as if they are included in such a call; (2) the nature and extent of Public Ministry and the role of supposed lay “Worship Ministers;" and, (3), directly related to this is the true role of women in congregational ministry, especially those who are positioned in the worship chamber during the Divine Service, either singly or together with an ensemble, specifically to draw attention to themselves, that as objects of attention they may more effectively make use of the Keys in ministering to the congregation in word and song. Are such worshipers Public Ministers? Then why are women involved in preaching to the congregation in word and song? Are such ensembles merely co-worshipers? Then why are they positioned and functioning to address the congregation at all? (If one reads Kretzmann's Christian Art one will readily see the position of Lutherans at his time and before -- the notion of Lutheran "Worship Ministers" is directly rejected).

There are probably many other issues, but these at least are sufficient to recognize the complexities involved.

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

Will WELS deal with the C&C issues? While it generally skirts issues, how far will it let the camel's nose of the C&Cers go under the tent flap before tearing down the tent?

Anonymous said...

The coffee church in Waunakee already has a woman pastor who "administers the Means of Grace."


Anonymous said...

"The coffee church in Waunakee already has a woman pastor who 'administers the Means of Grace.'"

So? The WELS has long admitted women to the Office of the Holy Ministry.

Anonymous said...

does anyone know an attorny specializing in spiritual malpractice? it takes lawsuits to keep some pastors honest and doing the work of the Lord.

Anonymous said...

"does anyone know an attorny specializing in spiritual malpractice? it takes lawsuits to keep some pastors honest and doing the work of the Lord."

Go back to your cabin in Northern Wisconsin and sit and yell at the television while you scratch your hairy back and drink your Bud Light.

Anonymous said...


what kind of pastors do we need?

We live in an era when people who say or write strong unambiguous statements are either attacked out right or just written off.

For a while now the WELS has been working tirelessly to adopt a semantic that accurately represents their beliefs but also has no ugly parts. The WELS has been trying find ways-- not to sugar coat and not to modify or moderate their language, but to morph it (and keep it in rhythm)with our rapidly changing cultural/language mindset.
Obviously attempting to find a semantic other (or in addition to) than Scripture is wrong and obvious weakness of faith. They operate as if God couldn't write one book that was equal in truth and meaning to all people all time. It's denying that we can understand John 1 literally. (Luther by the way did not adopt or codify a new semantic-He destroyed the Roman by reading and believing the Word)

As I stated, this has been going on for a while, but interestingly the latest edition of this tomfoolery, Church and Change, is just too bold of an attempt for the other folks in the WELS doing the exact same thing.

Everybody's worrying about how the preached Word will be received. WHY?

To answer the question? We need Pastors that are willing to be called Confessional Crusaders, slanders, bigots, dorks homophobes, close minded, liars, losers, crazy and deluded for the sake of the true preaching and teaching of God's Word. We need men who will not try to make the Word more appeasing; men who will be bold and clear with language. Men who will say what God tells them (through the Word)to say.

We need Pastors who believe that the Christian Church will be persecuted and that persecution can be met with songs, Like Paul and Silas in jail, rather than an extreme makeover for the sake of public acceptability. We need Pastors who'll fight against the popularity contest that is embodied by Rockandrollchurch and Church and Change.

We need Pastor and laymen like this.

But all I see is pandering. And to expect President Schroeder 'put his foot down' and do something drastic is to deny that the WELS has been pandering for a very long time.

I would like to see him make a whip out of cords...